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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 11:58 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 3:01 pm
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Location: SouthEast Pennsylvania
In "Hello Dolly", Mrs. Levi leaves New York City to arrive at the Yonkers station in Garrison from the North. The Hudson River is on the wrong side of the train! There are also asphalt "bridge plates" where the Southbound local track is missing.


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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 12:24 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 11:26 am
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Location: Maine
I recall a made for t.v. story about the life of the late, great, Ernie Kovacs. While he was on radio, he did a stunt of broadcasting live from between the tracks of the Southern Pacific. To replicate that stunt, they got a museum to tow a lone coach behind an SW1, on siding in Los Angeles. Considering the stunt was in the earliest part of the fifties, or late forties, I'd call that "license".

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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 7:47 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
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Location: Inwood, W.Va.
I am surprised the list of film errors is so short. I almost pull out most of what's left of my hair at some of the things I've seen over the years. Most common one is poorly syncronized sound with steam; usually the exhaust chuffs are too fast relative to the engine. This can show up in otherwise good movies, among them "The Tall Target" (1951, loosely based on an assasination plot against Abraham Lincoln on his way to the inauguration in February of 1862). "The Tall Target" actually has a number of other anachronisms, including a station in New York that looks like the original Grand Central (which wasn't built until 1869), and air brakes on engines and cars (this is 1862),. The train leaves New York directly for Washington, DC (apparently without the ferry crossing or Penn Station tunnels you would need), and the engine and engine crew run straight through from New York to Washington without change (at the very least a B&O crew and engine would take over in Baltimore). The film does portray the movement of rail equipment in Baltimore with teams of horses in the street trackage there, which is a good detail to see.

Funny smokestacks show up in all kinds of films, including "Breakheart Pass" (don't film people know that quite a few 19th century engines had cap stacks?)

Operations are often wrong. A classic example was an episode from "Little House on the Prairie," in which a couple of girls play in a caboose, knock off the hand brake, and the car starts to roll downhill to a potential collision with a train coming up. The rubbish in operations as portrayed in this episode starts with an operator at a "tower" partway down the hill who has to go down to track level to throw a switch to get the caboose onto a siding (he fails to do so, of course, partly because of the time he looses coming down from the tower--why isn't he in a ground-level shanty, or if he is in a tower, why isn't there an interlocking mechanism?) He of course telegraphs back up the hill to the operator there to let the uphill man know the caboose has gotten past him, and the operator at the top in turn starts to telegraph the op at the bottom to hold the train that is about to depart, but of course the train has just left. Michael Landon races the train on horseback, catches the locomotive (Sierra 3, by the way), and has a big fight in the cab before he convinces the engine crew that a runaway is headed for them. The reverse back down the hill and catch the caboose, all is safe.

The whole thing is quite melodramatic, yet I am bothered by the fact that many telegraph circuits in the time period portrayed were a type of party line, and the man at the bottom would have heard the man at the top talking to the man in the middle about the runaway. This would actually have been quite easy to fix, just have the caboose get down the hill fast enough for the man at the shanty to miss getting it onto the siding, while the man at the bottom is away from his post listening to the speech-making politico on the rear platform as his telegraph sounder is clacking away in the conversation between the other two operators. You still get the melodrama of Landon racing the train, which is the real reason for all this.

I've mentioned in the 614 return thread a bit of the drama you can have in modern steam operations, and I think this is something the entertainment industry is missing out on. Think of the railroad literature from the past, such as stories from Railroad Magazine, the true stories that also appeared in the same publication, railroad novels from Frank Spearman and Herbert Hamblen, and Hollister Noble's "One Way to Eldorado," all of which could be very photogenic and and adaptable to film or television. As it is, if you want to see American history and nostalgia and railroading and the physical environment without rerunning "Danger Lights" or "Other Men's Women," you have to go to a !@#$%&!! cartoon!

Examples: To see an adaptation that features a bit on the alleged anti-streetcar conspiracy (National City Lines case), you have to see "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"

To see the troubles of a town that almost dies because it was bypassed by an Interstate highway, you have to see "Cars."

If you want to see modern steam in its glory of noise, smoke and a coating of winter dirt, you get to see "The Polar Express."

This is one of several sore spots I have because I attempted to put together a television series based on the adventures of railroaders on the job. Spent more than two years of practically all my spare time on the project learning to write in the proper style and researching the subject (and coming up with some great stories; it's true, the real stuff is better than anything you can dream up); wrote 12 episodes, and had material for more than 30 more. Setting would have been on two divisions of an unnamed coal-hauling railroad in West Virginia running along the New River and up over a mountain past a beautiful resort, and down the other side into Virginia. (You can guess which road it was patterned after). Opening time period would be 1940-1941, on the eve of WW II. Plenty of drama, and humor, too (Cigar-smoking division super to an employee during an accident investigation: "Young man, you have the makings of a first-class railroader. You can lie with the best of them. Two weeks' suspension will fit your case." Source: "No Royal Road" by Edward Custer.)

Two years of work on this while holding down a regular job, and the result was I couldn't sell it to save my soul.

So much for the land of opportunity.


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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:23 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 9:56 am
Posts: 596
Location: Rochester, NY
Its not only the movies that do it!
This one is a classic:

Image

top photo is unretouched..what the loco actually looks like..
bottom photo is my photoshopped version..attempting to see what it "should" look like..I made up that photoshopped version for a forum discussion about this locomotive a few years back..

This is a 1915 Porter at "The Steaming Tender" restaurant in Palmer mass.
(the restaurant name also shows they don't know much about locomotives..) ;)
another photo:

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.p ... 97&nseq=13

Scot


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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:36 pm 

Joined: Tue Mar 02, 2010 5:03 pm
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Location: SE, Mich.
The engine doesnt look too bad, except the fact the stack is almost as tall as the engine itself!

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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 9:55 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 7:26 pm
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Location: Hammond, WI
Here's one with a stack that's not just too tall...
Image

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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:04 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
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Location: Northern Illinois
That's Soo Line 346, Alco 1920, in Tracy MN at a place that has the audacity to call itself the Wheels Across the Prairie MUSEUM.

Amazingly, the headlight is authentic, but those little Pyle-National switcher lights are ugly to begin with, and the contrast with the comical stack doesn't help.

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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 10:47 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
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Location: Inwood, W.Va.
The restaurant name, "The Steaming Tender," reminds me of an old vaudeville joke, one of a number that were recycled on radio, in this case the Chase and Sanborn Hour (Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy).

Charlie is talking about a restaurant he wants to open up, with a strong railroad theme (an indication, in this time period, of how railroads were part of the landscape). Among the meals to be offered at this restaurant is a steak dinner, named the "Coal Car Special;" this was "because it's so tender."

I think I'll take bad vaudeville jokes and in-service steam over steam locomotives that have become a bad joke.


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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 12:40 am 

Joined: Tue Jul 31, 2007 3:11 am
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Location: Missoula, MT
Boyd Owens wrote:
Here's one with a stack that's not just too tall...
Image


Her sister 353 is in service over at Rollag, MN at the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers.

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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 1:07 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 9:04 am
Posts: 263
Location: Lawrence, Mass.
The sad thing about both the Steaming Tender 0-6-0 (Sturm & Dillard 102) and the "DME 9" (Soo 346) is that they both received their goofy stacks and other "wild west" trimmings from their previous owners in different locations, and obviously would have had to have them removed for the road trip to their new homes. What ever possessed the new owners to put them back on is completely beyond me.

The Steaming Tender engine was previously displayed at a flea market in Hubbardston, Mass, and several old freight and passenger cars still remain there in less-than-stellar condition. I've heard rumors that local railfans were trying to convince the Steaming Tender management to get rid of the fake stack, but it has been a few years now and I see no indication of that happening. She would be quite an attractive little engine otherwise.

The Soo 346 had been partially embedded in the side of a restaurant in Rochester, Minnesota, lettered as "C&NW no. 9", along with a couple of ex-Northern Pacific wood coaches. I'm not sure what happened to the coaches when the engine was moved to Tracy, but I'm guessing they probably bit the dust along with the rest of the building.

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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 1:32 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 3:37 pm
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Location: Pacific, MO
In addition to the abomidable abortions the movies have foisted upon us, I grit my teeth at some of the assumptions.
Somebody on the tracks, a car, truck or person and all the engineer does is blow the whistle. No brakes I guess. Train coming to a stop in the depot with the exhaust sound still doing 40 mph. Maybe a Shay? GS-4s in New York, and on and on.
It's no wonder the movie industry has the reputation of being drug addled. They have earned it.
How many have been at an event covered by the press and afterward wondering if you both were at the same event?
The HBO film "Truman" did pretty well in not screwing up the 1522. It's too bad she didn't have her own whistle on her, but one off of a Burlington 2-8-2.


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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 1:53 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
I've become less harsh on movies and movie-makers as I've gotten older for their "sins." Yes, I still notice the mixups (Why did the Union Pacific serve Mayberry, NC on the Andy Griffith Show?), but I have come to a broader conclusion: If you notice the trains that much, then the movie-makers aren't doing a good enough job of holding your attention.

Scenery, props, locations, trains, ect., are supposed to create a tableau of sorts, to help the moviemaker evoke a time and place. For those of you also in model railroading, it folllows Allen McClennand's "3 foot rule" that if the model looks good from arms-lenght away, nobody is going to notice any minor detail problems.

Of course, many of us are preservationists, and we by nature want to get it right. We spend hours, if not days agonizing over details such as shades of paint, seat covering material, lettering, etc. Our job is different than that of the movie-maker. We both are trying to tell stories just in different ways.

Possibly the best film I've watched recently that does a good job of evoking the past is the Clint Eastwood film "Changeling." It looks like the 1920s, and the scene late in the film that is set about 10 years later, looks like the 1930s. There is a scene where the camera rises above street level, and we see trolley wires! There are those who when watching this movie would complain that the Pacific Electric didn't run Birney cars in those parts of Los Angeles, or that while the Santa Fe had 2-6-2s, they weren't as small as the one from Orange Empire used in the film, etc... You have to be reasonable, because everything is not able to be recreated.

Even the "best" film that shows 19th century railroading, Walt Disney's Great Locomotive Chase, has problems. After all, the "Texas" is a later build of 4-4-0, and I see air brakes on her! However, in the end, if you watch the movie, you don't notice it.

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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:26 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 26, 2004 2:50 pm
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Location: Northern Illinois
One of the worst has to be the Charles Bronson film Breakheart Pass. The plot called for a car load of escort troops to be lost because a coupling link broke, which was likely a common enough occurrence in the period depicted, but when the special effects people went to do it, they found AAR knuckle couplers. No problem, and we viewers were treated to a shot of a torched off coupler shank. Bummer.

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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 2:31 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:28 am
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Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Dennis Storzek wrote:
One of the worst has to be the Charles Bronson film Breakheart Pass. The plot called for a car load of escort troops to be lost because a coupling link broke, which was likely a common enough occurrence in the period depicted, but when the special effects people went to do it, they found AAR knuckle couplers. No problem, and we viewers were treated to a shot of a torched off coupler shank. Bummer.


I had never noticed that. I took the Charles Durning character's word when he said the metal had "crystalized." Then again, the movie as about trickery and subterfuge, so who knows if what he said was correct?

Movies require a willing suspension of disbelief. I can forgive knuckle couplers if the story is good.

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 Post subject: Re: Film Backdating Abombinations
PostPosted: Wed Jun 23, 2010 8:29 pm 

Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 3:41 am
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Location: Inwood, W.Va.
Air brakes on Civil-War era (or just after) equipment ("Great Locomotive Chase," "The Tall Target," "Union Pacific") are understandable, it's what was available. Ditto for a 2-8-2 on a passenger train in "The Natural" and "Fools' Parade," as well as the wheel arrangement on a road that never had it, the Norfolk & Western, in "October Sky, and a Nickel Plate 2-8-4 also playing a Norfolk & Western locomotive in "Matewan" (which was filmed in Thurmond, W.Va., on the C&O, and with a relatively low budget). The wonderful opening sequence from the classic film, "Giant," turned the tables with location work on the C&O in Virginia, but using a borrowed N&W 4-8-2 because C&O didn't have any servicable steam available at the time (and ironically, the engine is trailing an ex-C&O tender purchased by the N&W). All of these examples are in really good movies, and I accept what was done because it was what was available, and despite these shortcomings, it still shows the movie people tried to get it right (and it also shows that maybe I know too much!)

On the other hand, some of the other things noted, such as horribly wrong sound, ridiculous stacks, awful paint, and some other items were all things that were glaringly obvious to anyone who knows something about trains! The ironic thing is that most of these things would be relatively easy to fix, or even not do (which would have saved a bit of money).

Having said this, I appreciate all the more the films where the director and set men do try to get things right. Examples include "Whispering Smith" (1947, and a detail to look for is a set of telegraph batteries in the background of a station scene, made from large special jars with a zinc crow's foot electrode and bright blue electrolite), "Without Reservations" (ca 1946 or so, check out the scene through the car windows as the train approaches LaSalle Street Station, and check out the Rock Island commuter power on the ready tracks and the flange noise as the train is negotiating crossovers, something rarely heard in movie soundtracks), Disney's "The Great Locomoitve Chase" (I remember the weed-grown track where this was shot, with its incredibly light looking rail, and how the ex-V&T engine that played the "Texas" really took a hit on the tender drawbar as it caught the box car that had been sent back to collide with it--and what looked like Jeffrey Hunter, playing Conductor Fuller, hightail it off the tank because there was a real collision about to take place). I also enjoy some scenes that can best be described as "over the top," if for no other reason that they are good for laughs, such as where an engineer packs a hotbox on a trailing truck at speed in "Danger Lights," and yet I still also appreciate, in the same scene, how the engine and tender sway in opposite directions as railroad equipment does on all but the smoothest of the smoothest track.

Now, if only we could bet more real railroad material made, and of at least attempted quality, and we could get away from train robberies and runaways, we might really have something!


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